|December 30, 2017
Hello again Maple People,
Sometimes I agonize over what to write about but the answer this time suddenly stared me in the face right here in my neighborhood…Northern Vermont neighborhood, that is. The other day I was delighted to be sent farther north on errands, especially after being tied to the farm for so long with Christmas business. Don’t get me wrong, I am appreciative of the business, but it’s always nice to go on a Vermont road trip to provide an opportunity to reconnect with old friends. On that particular day I chose Morrisville as my first stop.
The village of Morrisville is nestled comfortably in the valley between Sterling Range and the Worcester foothills. The Lamoille River divides it into two distinct parts; the older, traditional part and the modern, growing part. The latter marks Morrisville as a major commerce hub for Northern Vermont where my friend Dave Marvin has been a strong “player” for many years now. And Dave’s focus is quite appropriate for here in this Vermont…maple.
Dave and I attended the University of Vermont together over forty years ago. I didn’t know him well then but always recognized him as a fellow Vermonter with a leaning toward the natural world around him. Right after graduation, we both ended up on our family farms, he on Butternut Mountain in Johnson and I here on County Road in East Montpelier. He “stayed put” in on the family acreage in Johnson for a while but, bent on bigger and better things, soon built a small maple processing plant a few miles south in Morrisville.
Fast forward to my trip the other day: cruising through Morrisville’s industrial area, all of a sudden Butternut Mountain Farm’s complex loomed massive before me marked by a long row of truck docks lined across their huge warehouses. The sea of employee cars left me struggling to find a place for my own. Finally finding a single space, I exited my car to the sweetness of maple in the air and a welcoming staff in their office area. Butternut Mountain Farm, under Dave’s decades-long guidance, has grown over these years to be one of the biggest buyers / processors of pure maple syrup in the whole country! Dave met me that day, gracious as ever. We talked about old times and among other things, how his business has evolved over the years.
From there, I next headed further north to the sleepy village of Glover where I was to meet with a fellow sugarmaker. Arriving during the noon hour, I stopped at Glover’s tiny eatery, the Busy Bee. The Busy Bee is no bigger than a little league dugout. As I entered, the single waitress who was obviously also owner, short-order cook, bookkeeper, custodian, and dishwasher, beckoned me to one of the six stools. I had to almost walk sideways to get there but managed to sit at one. She greeted me with a perfunctory “coffee?” as I glanced at her hand-written list of specials. “Shepherd’s pie” when you get a chance, I said, intercepting a mug of hot coffee that slid toward me. When my shepherd’s pie came, it was piping hot and oh so good!
I left the Busy Bee not only full but full of thought. It was a real pleasure running my errands that day. I got to see a great old friend and to eat a fantastic meal at a fantastic place. I also witnessed a couple very different business models, one growing faster’n a rabbit hound on chase and the other staying small and steady. Whatever the case, Northern Vermont has it all. It’s a “happenin'” kind of place.